Real Life Political Lessons

I am writing out of a sense of extreme anguish and distress. A very dear friend of my sons – a 16 year old boy – a boy whose family we have known for years and years – went to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis this past week. In the company of other teens and adults, he, believing himself to be an American who enjoys rights and privileges we are constantly reminded that no one else in the world possesses, exercised his right to protest. He was not armed. He was in no way threatening. But he and the group of about 300 people he was with – who were leaving the scene of the protests, who were doing what the police had asked – were pelted with tear gas, rounded up and detained. They were walking across a bridge and the police blocked them off on both sides and then pelted them with shock grenades which temporarily blinded them. His parents were not notified and his cell phone – like all the damning cameras and the like – were seized by the police. He was kept overnight in a juvenile detention center and has a court date.
 
Had this been Georgia, China or Havana, American journalists and politicians would have been falling over themselves to condemn and shake their heads, certain of their moral superiority in the world. We’re Americans, right? The good guys, right? Those others – they’re the ones who have no rights in their own countries, who long to be Americans where we have so many freedoms.
 
But…. isn’t right of assembly one of those basic freedoms? I teach students about the Constitution all the time – and this week I got to explain to my son, distraught over the treatment his friend received, that there is a world of difference between what freedoms are described in text books and routinely quoted by politicians – and the reality of what people experience every day in this country.
 
My sons’ friend  has been battered and mistreated. He witnessed innocent  people being batoned and violently thrown onto the pavement by police. He saw people hit by tear gas canisters who were injured and bleeding. He saw people arrested for peacefully protesting. He witnessed the thin veil of hypocrisy waved in his face.
 
Do you believe this? Are you someone who knows all of this very well? Do you, like me, struggle to find a way to inspire and engage students about participating in real life political struggle whilst being painfully aware of the increasingly dangerous situation in this country? Do you spend time teaching teens agers about the Constitution – and then explaining how it has been seriously impacted by the Patriot Act, amongst other vicious pieces of legislation in this country? Are you and your students really aware of just what rights we proud Americans have thrown away in recent years? Are you, like me, painfully aware that neither of the two main presidential candidates have any intention of doing away with the Patriot Act? In addition to the abuses heaped by police on protesters outside of the RNC, inside, Ron Paul delegates – who were not protesters but who were there in their official democratically sanctioned role as delegates – were harassed and followed by secret service agents. Ron Paul, not surprisingly, was the presidential hopeful who was against the Patriot Act.
 
And so I say to my students and to my son, welcome to Real Life Politics in America.
 
If you’d like to see some footage of this police action and the incredibly frightening treatment meted out to peaceful protesters, click on this link to youtube videos. You can also watch the arrest of journalist and DemocracyNow presenter Amy Goodman.
 
 

Posted on September 6, 2008 in Children and Society

COMMENTS
  • Dana says:

    I am so saddened to hear this story. i have little ones so I obviously don’t have to deal with the “explanation” of things, how hard that must be.
    I have been involved (before children) in peaceful demonstrations that were totally treated with violence by the police and of couse was just chalked up to “those cazy tree huggers” and no one really paid attention to the civil rights that were trampled on.
    He and his parents are in my prayers! And hopefully when my children grow older I can explain how stories like his made a change for the better.

  • Carle says:

    Your son and friend are in my thoughts.
    Peace

  • dottyspots says:

    I am horrorfied by this! My thoughts go out to the people injured in this demonstration :0(

  • donna says:

    thank you all for your kind thoughts and words. Our friend and his family are now in limbo – they have not heard yet if he will be charged or what for.

  • angela says:

    unfortunately this has been going on for a long time, long before the ‘Patriot Act’… I was born in ’57 and it’s been happening all my life, anytime people want to make a change in the status quo, anytime anyone looks/acts/speaks differently they risk being singled out by the powers that be, including the police who, unfortunately, aren’t always there to protect. And it isn’t just in America, it happens here in Australia as well and we know that it happens in other places too. Sad, sad, sad. Hugs to your friend and his friends. I wish there were more that I could do.

  • Julia says:

    How very sad and shocking. I find it disheartening, but not surprising, that our biased media chose to ignore this terrible event. They are too busy in their task of celebrity building these days. I believe in Ron Paul’s message. America needs to regain its footing and that means to respect and follow our Constitution. His Campaign for Liberty may be the answer. Four years from now, perhaps we, as a nation, will have weaned ourselves from the media and will feel comfortable voting for a statesman like Ron Paul, instead of a mere celebrity.

  • B says:

    So sad! I haven’t heard this anywhere else!
    I guess we must just keep educating our kids in accurate history which doesn’t play on sentimentalism and victim politics to the exclusion of all else and which helps them to understand what freedom is and what freedom COSTS. The appeal of Obama is high amongst a lot of homeschoolers. I don’t understand this. His policies are socialist policies (ie. govt funding of early preschool, govt. health care). They are a move away from freedom not towards it and if he is elected he will get Supreme Court nominees. The real movers and shakers of this country. This is a direct threat to homeschoolers and anyone who lives outside what government deems “right”.
    I don’t endorse McCain here either – don’t get me wrong – the whole thing is a mess and our entire country has moved towards the mistakes of Europe by enlarging government more and more each year. Globalism isn’t partial to you and me and kids gotta know! Freedom costs – there are risks associated with it and kids need to know that if you want to BE FREE you can’t ask government to take care of you. It’ll want something in return.
    That’s my rant.

  • B says:

    Clarification: I just realized that my remark on what “freedom costs” may be construed as support of the Patriot Act. Yikes!!! No, no, no! But they have used a similar phrase and that is not what I mean at all.
    Freedom costs because true freedom means you must take care of yourself and your needs. Whether it is education, health care, finance, food, etc., etc. and this takes a whole new mindset and a willingness to work hard and suck it up. We are too soft. It’s a price and that’s what I meant.

  • Kim says:

    My son and his friends were protesting the DNC in CO where some of his friends were arrested as well – this after clearing with local authorities exactly what was allowed. In one specific instance they had received permission to write on the sidewalk with chalk. When they began writing – peacefully – two girls were tossed around inexcusably and finally arrested without even a warning to stop nor an opportunity to explain. It is chilling. Whatever happened to “I do not share your views but I defend your right to express them?”

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